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Thread: Determining Key Signature

  1. #1
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    Determining Key Signature

    Hi, I'm just kinda trying to figure out some theory on my own time but I have a couple questions..Is a song in the key of the root note? Or the lowest note on the first chord? And does A5 mean it's any A with an E?

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Hi, I'm just kinda trying to figure out some theory on my own time but I have a couple questions..Is a song in the key of the root note. Or the lowest note on the first chord??
    Kinda, sorta, almost ...... Is a song in the key of the root note? I guess you could rationalize it that way, however, root note is a term used to identify a specific note within a chord. The C chord has a C, E and G note which are all sounded at the same time. The C note is the root note of the C chord. And I think what you are asking is if you know the key to be in C that also identifies the scale being used as being C, i.e. Key of C will use notes from the C scale and those C scale notes are used to produce the Chords in the Key of C. That begs an answer, what is a key? A key is a range of sound that range of sound will include both scale notes and chord tones, i.e. a key will have both scale notes for the melody and chords for the harmony.

    However, if a song is in the key of C the C chord is not always the first chord used in the song. It should be the last chord in the song as this resolves and brings the song to an end. And true a lot of songs do start and end with the same chord. But, don't bet the farm that the first chord will tell you the key. That is why I said kinda, sorta, almost. The song could be using a chord progression of ii, V I if so that old shoe of first chord does not apply.



    And yes a C chord normally has the C note as the lowest note. However up pops inversions. C E G is the Root chord, and C is the lowest note, but, E G C is the first inversion of C and G C E is the 2nd inversion of C. All C chords, but the notes are stacked in different order. So --- don't count on that lowest note thing as being fool proof.

    So --- how do you tell what key a song is in? There are a lot of give-a-ways you will learn from working with this problem, and last chord in the song is one of them. However, only sure way is to:
    Work with notes or chords -- let's say you elect to work with chords -- write all the chords on a sheet of paper, cross out all duplications, put what's left in alphabetical order. Take that list to your handy dandy chord key chart and see if all your chords fit into one key. Not some, all. If all your chords fit into one key -- that's your key. If you elected to work with notes, if all the notes fit into one scale that's your scale. As the key name and the scale name are the same name......... if you know one you know the other.
    And does A5 mean it's any A with an E?
    Yes.

    I'm sure I confused you. Re-phrase and ask again if I missed the mark.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 12-16-2008 at 04:04 AM.

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    Well, I'm not sure what all those inversions you mentioned are but I think I get it. Like I mentioned before, I'm kinda just trying to figure stuff out on my own time, chord/note relationships, stuff like that, I also know a few scales. Where do you think I should begin on theory?

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    Registered User JonR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SSJMasah2k
    Hi, I'm just kinda trying to figure out some theory on my own time but I have a couple questions..Is a song in the key of the root note? Or the lowest note on the first chord?
    Often, yes - the root of the first chord.

    The key is the note (or chord) that "feels like home".
    In rock music, it will probably be the first chord;
    it will probably be the last chord;
    and probably the chord used more than any other in the song (although this is a less sure guide).
    If all these seem to conflict, go with first and last chord. If they are different, go with the last chord - as long as it sounds like an ending when you get there. The key chord feels like the period at the end of a sentence, the secure base that the other chords all move away from and come back to.
    Quote Originally Posted by SSJMasah2k
    And does A5 mean it's any A with an E?
    Yes. Any A with any E, although usually the E will be the higher of the two.

  5. #5
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
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    Where do you think I should begin on theory?
    Not sure what all you already know, but here are my thoughts.

    Know how the major scale is built, i.e. understand the relationship between the chromatic scale and the half step whole step sequences that result in the Major scale.

    Know what specific notes are in the 15 major scales. Yes 15, B and Cb are the same, C# and Db are the same and F# and Gb are the same -- which leave us with 12 active scales. Go look at the Circle of 5ths, ever wonder why the bottom of the Circle is so crowded? Spend some time with the Circle of 5ths and see how it can work as a memory peg for you. Wealth of knowledge in that circle, know how to read it.

    Understand how the major scale's six becomes the first in the natural minor scale. That is followed with the seventh in the major scale becoming the second in the natural minor scale. Yes the first in the major scale then becomes the third in the natural minor scale, etc. etc. That's how it develops, understand why.

    Understand how to construct chords. Memorize the chord formulas, up through the three sevenths. That will get you thinking notes as well as patterns. Understand how to take the notes from a scale and come up with the chords used in that key.

    That IMHO is the basic foundation of everything else. With that under your fingertips you then will be ready to take on melody, scales, etc.

    After melody harmony is next, and the list goes on and on.

    Now during all this study, keep doing what you are doing now. Theory is in addition to what you are doing now.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 12-16-2008 at 04:10 PM.

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